Thursday, February 7, 2013

Botswana January 2013

All Pictures and Video are at the bottom of this post.

Before I talk about Botswana I wanted to give an update on Andrew, I met Andrew on my last trip to Senegal, he was departing on an around the world sailing trip on a 12 foot sail boat. Three days into his adventure he was rescued by the Spanish Navy somewhere off the coast of Morocco. Right now this is all the details I have as I find out more I will let everyone know what happened to Andrew.

We left Dakar at 5:30 AM for a very easy 8 hour flight - Dakar to Johannesburg. We had a very pleasant dinner at the Intercontinental Hotel at the Johannesburg airport. We stayed at the City Lodge, which is also right at the airport.

Day 1 Travel to Botswana.

I decided to fly to Manu, Botswana instead of hitching a ride. Maragrite was with me plus being my last trip to the village I thought I would spoil myself. Normally I would try my luck hitching hiking which can take anywhere from one day to three days.

Upon arriving at the Manu airport I was surprised to see the village elders were there to greet me. This was very strange as I have never been greeted at the airport before especially since I rarely fly. I could tell by the looks on their faces this was not a celebratory greeting, something was wrong. As I walked up to greet everybody and give them all hugs, I got a very cold reception, it was explained to me that the elders had read my post about me moving on, and leaving the village.

I found this interesting since I own the only PC in the village, they must of used my PC to access the internet. To make a long story short, it was explained to me that I was no longer welcome in the village, a village I had spent the last 7 years working in. There would be no good byes, they had all my stuff boxed up. They told me once I had a new home to let them know where it was, and they would ship my stuff. I knew that would never happen, my stuff was now their stuff.

I said, "The hell with them". I had 6 nights before my flight out of Johannesburg was schedule, so I figured Margarite and I should have some fun. Margarite was all for it. I had some contacts at Wilderness Safari, I gave them a call, things were quickly scheduled. It was a "You wash our back, we wash your back", kind of deal. They were short a pilot so they traded me doing a flight for them, in return I got three nights each at two different safari parks. The best part, I had no idea how to fly a plane.

Guess what if you can use flight simulator software you can fly a plane I am living proof.

The first camp we stayed at was Savuti Camp which is on the Savuti channel located north east of the Okavango delta along the Linyanti fault line in Northern Botswana. I flew us form the Maun Airport to Chobe airstrip which was just a dirt field (this was my part of the deal). Once we landed Margarite and I were greeted by Lets our guide.

Once we got settled into our over the top fantastic luxury tent, we met up with Letz for afternoon tea and a safari drive. We saw Elephants, Giraffe, and many different types of birds. We returned at 7:00 PM for a quick clean up before having a gourmet dinner. "Honey, we are no longer in Senegal." Besides Margarite and I, there was a family of 7 as the only other guests of the camp, talk about personal service.

Day 2 Savuti Camp

Wake up call 5:00 AM, breakfast 5:30 AM and back on game drive. The last time I was on a game drive was back in August which was the winter dry season, it is now January and the wet season. There is lots of green, green trees, grass, etc. There is water, lots of it. This makes it harder to find the animals but better to photograph them. Our guide Lets still found tons of things to see. Many birds, lots of flowers, hyena, several hippopotamus, lions, elephants, giraffes, and others.

We had lunch, followed by a siesta, followed by an afternoon game drive. Lets is a fantastic guide, of similar caliber to Godfrey in Parfuri camp from last Augusts safari in Kruger Park, South Africa. Lets is not only a guide but also a professional photographer. This was fantastic, as Lets was very generous with the time he took showing us how to take pictures.

It rained hard just prior to the afternoon game drive, giving us a different perspective on the African jungle, the cloud formations gave beautiful pictures and a great sunset.

The family of seven left and local couple joined us, now there were about 10 staff members to serve 4 guests. Life is good.

Day 3 Savuti Camp

The morning drive was as great as the others, beautiful landscapes and animals. The roads were very wet from the rains the day before. Lets tried to drive across a swamp, bad move! It was a fun adventure digging ourselves out. We were so happy Lets allowed for guest participation in the digging and engineering of the rescue and retrieval of the land rover.

During our afternoon siesta we has a huge down pour (RAIN). It is the rainy season in Botswana and I highly recommend this time of year for safari. The rains usually do not last that long and bring out beautiful green colors from all the plant life which really accents the animals.

We had a very pleasant dinner the other guests, Dawson, and his VERY LONG time girl friend Nitty. We also had 4 more guest join us, they were from Long Island New York. So now the staff was spread among 8 guest, what service. This was our last night at Savuti Camp.

Day 4 Savutil Camp and travel to Vumbura Plains Camp

5:00 AM wake up call, we decided to try to get one more game drive in before we headed off to our next destination. Lets was hoping to get to show us some African Dogs. Unfortunately the lions had scared them off, so instead we saw a beautiful pride of lions, this pride had 9 members with 7 being male. It is rare to have that many male lions in one pride.

We said goodbye to Lets as he was heading home for his leave. His schedule was three months on, one months off.

We enjoyed a fantastic brunch, I need to mention how accommodating the chef has been for Margarite. Margarite has both gluten and dairy allergies. For every meal the chef made Margarite the exact same meal as the rest of the guest, except gluten and dairy free. As we were getting ready to leave the chef brought Margarite some gluten free baking products she could try at home.

Goodman drove us to the airstrip a 25 minute drive from camp. We were about halfway to the airstrip when Goodman got a call over the radio, African dogs just took down an impala out side camp. Our flight was to close to turn around and go back. "So close yet so far away", from seeing the African Dogs.

Miaka was our pilot, I choose to enjoy the flight rather than fly, I also find women pilots are much better pilots than men. The 25 minute flight was uneventful Miaka, put us down dead center of the Vumbura air strip.

We had a 50 minute ride to camp during the ride we saw wart hogs, wildebeest, zebra, baboons, and impalas. We thought Savuti Camp was over the top luxurious, well Vumbura Plains Camp put Savuti Camp to shame, and Savuti Camp was awesome. We found out Savuti Camp is considered a classic camp, while Vumbura Plains Camp is considered premier. Our tent had a custom deck with pool, indoor outdoor shower, beautiful bedroom area, as well as a living area.

Vumbura Plains Camp is located in the Okavango Delta. The Okavango Delta is rightly considered one of the most incredible wilderness sanctuaries in Africa. It is the largest inland delta system in the world.

Once settled in we were offered lunch which we declined since we had brunch just a few hours ago. At 4:00 PM we took an afternoon game drive , joining us was a husband a wife along with their adult son. They were visiting from West Chester, New York. Our guide's name was Laz He told us it was short for Lazy, Lazy has a different meaning in Botswana than it does in America. He happen to be one of Lets's cousins, but he did not have the same guiding skills as Lets.

Lazy just drove, rarely stopping, as he drove he would point to birds, animals and yell out their names. "Kingfish at three o'clock, Elephant at twelve o'clock" I think you get my point. When he did stop we were so far from the animals, you needed the Hubble Telescope as a zoom for your camera to get a decent shot. The drive was not a total loss we did get to see a pride of lions and a pack of African Dogs.

After our game drive we had a fantastic dinner, great food, company, and service.

Day 5 Vumbura Plains Camp

Wake up is at 5:30 rather than 5:00 after a quick breakfast we were back out on the game drive with Lazy, he did a little better this morning, going slower and stopping a little more. The area surrounding Vumbura Plains Camp is wetter than Savuti Camp, we are now in the delta, the roads are much sandier and much of the land is marshes surrounded by natural waterways. We have been told that come April much of the land we are driving on will be flooded by the waters that flow from Angola, as Angola hit it's rainy season.

The rainy season in Northern Botswana is from October to March so we continue to get a few rain showers through the day.

Vumbura Plains Camp has a north and south section 7 tents in each all connected by a raised boardwalk. It had been days since we had run and we had been feeling stiff. Margarite and I did a quick 5K on the boardwalk, twice up and back. We got some funny stares from the animals watching us, which included, giraffe, elephants, wart hogs, and a few baboons.

After lunch we opted for a boat ride through the delta this was for two reasons, to get away from Lazy, and to get a different perspective. OB was our guide and Ola was our captain both were great. Joining us on the boat ride was Liv a volunteer at a local veterinary clinic in Maun, the Vice President of Botswana with his wife and teenage son. The boat ride was very educational. The view of the delta along with all the flowers (Lily's) was incredible. The captain Ola grew up on this waters and knew the area like the back of his hand. Both OB and Ola were from the same tribe and village. They showed us what reeds were good for making mats, how to make baskets, and even what Lilly roots you could eat.

Another great dinner and off to bed.

Day 6 Vumbura Plains Camp

Lazy did a much better job today he had his girlfriend MiMi join us and we think he was doing a nice job to impress her. Joining us in the morning was a couple from Toronto along with their daughter Warren, Melanie, and Montana. We saw a pride of three male lions about 7 years of age. Lazy told us this is a rare sight. Along with many other animals we saw a female leopard that was very pregnant. Lazy stepped up to the plate this morning. Clearly Mimi had an huge influence on Lazy's abilities.

In the afternoon we opted for a Mokoro outing. A Mokoro is a traditional dug out canoe made from local trees. In our case they were more modern and made of plastics. The area we would be touring was shallow water so rather than paddle we used a pole. Ola our captain from the day before was our polers. What a great experience. Lazy and Mimi were in there own Mokoro and were suppose to scout and make sure the area was safe, though once they hit the water we never saw them again. Ola did a fabulous job, Warren, Melanie, and Montana, joined us in their own Mokoro.

On the way back the polers jeep went ahead of us, over the last few days the water throughout the delta had risen about 8 inches, many of the roads were now completely flooded. As we made a sharp turn Lazy almost rear ended the polers jeep, which was buried about 2 feet into the mud, the differential was sitting on the ground with all four wheels off the ground.

Lazy made a half ass attempt at pulling them out. I am sure with a little help from the guest we could of got them out, but the mud was rather stinky and the Canadians really did not want to get dirty.

Another great dinner.

Day 7 Vumbura Plains Camp and my last day in Botswana!

Today is a bitter sweet day, I will be leaving Botswana not knowing if I will ever return. I decided I would head back to the U.S. there is a few months of skiing left. After that I will decided what to do next.

We slept in until about 8:00 AM then enjoyed a very pleasant morning, the sky was clear with a very pleasant warm breeze. We said our good byes and were off. It would be 30 hours before we are in the United States. This was such a beautiful ending to a 7 year adventure in my little village in Botswana.

From Vumbura Plains Camp we flew to Maun, spent some time in Maun, then flew onto Johannesburg for a 5 hour layover, then 16 hours to JFK.

That is it for now.





No comments: